Turkish TV Reporters Briefly Detained During FM’s Visit To Saudi Arabia

Turkish Foreign Minister meets with Saudi King Salman.

Two television reporters with Turkish TRT World were briefly detained by Saudi police during Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s visit to Riyadh to discuss the ongoing diplomatic row between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

Saudi police detained reporters Hasan Abdallah and Nihat Yayman who were part of the delegation led by the Turkish foreign minister and who were covering his visit for the Turkish television, at a hotel where they were staying.

When Mr. Cavusoglu learned about the incident, he contacted with Saudi King Salman and secured their release after 10 hours of detention.

The episode, reported by the Hurriyet daily, reflects an emerging discord between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which has appeared irritant over Ankara’s staunch backing of Qatar.

In an expression of Turkey’s official policy, TRT World covered the unfolding rift between Qatar and other Gulf countries from the perspective of Doha.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries as un-Islamic and urged mediation of the crisis before the end of Ramadan.

On Saturday, the Turkish president held a teleconference call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to discuss the latest state of the row. Turkey has stepped up a flurry of diplomatic initiatives, communicating with regional countries to resolve the dispute.

During Mr. Cavusoglu’s visit, Saudi King Salman turned down a previous offer by President Erdogan to build a military base in Saudi Arabia, similar to one in Qatar that is under construction by Turkish military engineers.

“The kingdom cannot allow Turkey to set up a military base on its territory,” an official statement by SPA state news agency said, quoting unnamed Saudi officials. An official told the news agency that such a military base is not needed, the military capabilities of the Kingdom “are at their best.”

In remarks to the Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency, the Turkish foreign minister offered a sober assessment of diplomatic efforts to resolve the escalating row. He said there is currently no solution, citing the complicated and tangled nature of the crisis.

He said he told Saudi King Salman that “it would be useful now to soften the conditions” against Qatar.

Turkey has recently sent planes loaded with food to Doha, and expressed unwavering support for the tiny Gulf country, which is accused by its neighbors of harboring extremist terrorism, spreading Islamist ideology in the region by backing Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE views the group as a “terrorist organization,” a stance that creates a regional line of diplomatic division with Turkey and Qatar regarding how to define the Islamist group.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have also grown extremely disturbed over media coverage of Doha-based Al Jazeera, accusing the media giant of fomenting revolutionary fervor and social chaos by its negative depiction of the regimes in the region. They also see Al Jazeera, especially its Arabic channel, as the media arm of Qatar’s foreign policy, as Doha cultivated close ties with Iran in disregard of its neighbors’ concerns toward Tehran, and treading an independent line to the dismay of Riyadh.

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